Chiu Family Seven Star Praying Mantis Association
History and Lineage
SIU LUM ROOTS
The Siu Lum Jee (Shaolin temple) was built on Sung mountain in Hunan province. This was probably around 495 AD. Records indicate that the Emperor Su Wen sanctioned the construction of a monastery, as he was a devout Buddhist. This monastery consisted of four areas, namely;
1. Western platform pagoda
2. Translation Hall
4. Meditation hall (main hall)
The original monks of Siu Lum were undisciplined. Although the priests taught the buddhist doctrines, the monks became rouges. Many monks would leave the temple and harass villagers for alms. As a result of this behavior , Emperor Wu of Chou ordered the temple closed.
Later, Emperor Ching of the northern Chou Dynasty re-opened the temple. This time, the monks were not allowed to leave the confines of the temple. More land was given to the monks and Siu Lum property spread over 1500 acres.
In the Liang Dynasty (505 – 557 AD), a Brahman monk named Damo (Bodhidarma) had traveled by foot from India to China. Damo taught Chan (Zen) Buddhism to the Siu Lum monks. Later, Damo also taught exercises in order to get the monks into better physical shape. Damo is regarded as the father of Siu Lum Gung Fu (kung fu). Although it is clear that his techniques were used mainly for conditioning only, Damo’s introduction to physical exercises was a tremendous contribution.
During the Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD), the Siu Lum temple was set afire during the Red Turban disturbance. The Red Turbans was a very large gang of robbers. They would raze village after village. A famous monk named Chin Lan Lock used a pole to fend off the Red Turbans. The other monks followed Chin Lan Lock’s lead and also picked up poles to fight with. The monks drove out the Red Turbans and Chin Lan Lock is credited for introducing the pole to the Siu Lum temple. Later, the pole technique was further developed and made famous.
During the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD) Siu Lum was not popular at all. China was developing gunpowder with the hopes of superseding martial arts as the main form of combat. The monks kept a low profile and concentrated on internal development. At this time, Siu Lum was divided into four levels of training.
1. Founder’s level (beginning)
2. Lo Han level (advanced)
3. Tai Sie level (priest)
4. Damo level (highest achievement)
Siu Lum was still, foremost, a place to study Buddhism. Most of the monks there did only that. Martial arts was taught to relatively few. Outsiders were allowed to pray at the monastery and study Buddhist concepts. The monks would also preside over funerals and give spiritual guidance whenever requested.
During the Sung Dynasty (960 – 1279) the Siu Lum monks were very organized. Siu Lum had over three thousand monks with an additional six hundred solider monks. Many scholars visited the temple to study Buddhist doctrines.
The Kin State was laying siege on Pin Lang, the capital of the Sung Dynasty. The assistance of Siu Lum monks was requested by the emperor Wang. Thirteen martial monks were dispatched during an offensive launched against the Kin State. The war came to an end in 1207 as general Chou Chun developed incendiary devices and destroyed the Kin army. Siu Lum was generously rewarded for their help.
Soon after that ,the famous Yang Ng Long came to Siu Lum to become a member. Yang was a master of the Yang family spear technique. ( Yang family was a famous military family). The monks would not allow a spear into the temple. Yang Ng Long broke off the tip of his spear to appease the monks. The monks allowed Yang to become a monk at Siu Lum. Even when learning the Siu Lum pole, Yang performed spear actions. His technique was adopted by the monks and became known as Ng Long Pa Kua Kwon (Ng Long’s eight diagram pole).
During the Ming Dynasty (1386 – 1644) Siu Lum really flourished. Under the benevolence of emperor Mok Hung Chu, Siu Lum grew in power and prestige. A monk named Kwok Yuen along with two non -monks Lee Ching and Pak Yu Feng created a new martial art. These three individuals expanded the existing techniques with the methods of various villages that Kwok Yuen traveled to. The new official martial art of the Siu Lum temple was the five animal fist. The five animals being the tiger, leopard, snake, dragon, and crane.
The progenitor of the martial art style known as praying mantis was Wong Long from Jee Mo county of San Dong (Shantung) province. Wong Long was a devoted practitioner of the martial arts and learned whatever he could. He was considered a good person by all who met him and he acquired many friends in the martial art circles. It is believed that his father, Wong Tong, was a merchant and was able to support Wong Long’s curious hobby. Although his father wanted to get Wong Long a good education, Wong Long showed little interest in scholastic studies. Since Wong Long was his only son, Wong Tong had spoiled him a bit. Wong Tong made a deal with his son that the only way he would continue to support his martial art practice was if he did well in his studies. Wong Tong hired a private tutor named Yin Yuk Fa for his son. This tutor excelled in scholastic ability as well as the martial arts. He set a good example for Wong Long and Wong Long took to studying in earnest. Wong Long learned calligraphy, poetry and the Taoist classics.
The Ching Dynasty was nearing its end. Manchu soldiers were increasingly becoming more and more abusive to the Chinese. Wong Long felt patriotic and wanted to help his people and country. He traveled throughout China getting involved in several incidents with the manchus.
Wong Long had traveled to Hunan Province and was arrested and thrown in jail by the Manchus. He became very ill and was released on a cold, rainy night. He thought he was going to die. A Siu Lum monk happened by and offered to help Wong Long. The monk took Wong Long to the temple and administered herbal medicine and acupuncture. The other monks became fond of Wong Long as they nursed him to health.
When Wong Long got his strength back he started to practice his martial art forms. When the monks saw this they were happy to exchange ideas with Wong Long. Wong Long started to learn Buddhist concepts from the monks along with bits and pieces from the various martial art styles. He never became a monk though and was considered an unshaven disciple by the monks.
Eventually, Wong Long left the temple and again traveled seeking to help out his countrymen. He finally settled down in Lo San at Fa Yi temple. The only temple existing today in Lo San. (Part of the temple ,Tong Jee pagoda, was destroyed about 25 years ago, and now praying mantis descendants want to rebuild it, generating donations at Fa Yi temple.) Wong Long was told the abbot had recently died and a new abbot had been appointed. When he met the newly appointed abbot, Wong Long was surprised to see that it was one of the monks he had trained with at the Siu Lum temple.
Wong Long began training very enthusiastically. However, no matter how much he trained, his older brother would always defeat him soundly. Wong Long felt that it was hopeless and even contemplated suicide. But one afternoon, while staring into a pond, something caught his eye. It was a praying mantis. It seemed to be looking at Wong. Then suddenly, a bird descended on the mantis. Wong thought the mantis would be easy prey, but was taken aback as the mantis fought off the bird. Wong captured the mantis for study. Using a length of straw, Wong poked and prodded the mantis to illicit actions. Wong then mimicked the movements as best he could. Wong caught a cicada and put it in the mantis cage. To Wong’s surprise, the mantis subdued the much larger assailant with relative ease.
When he next sparred with his elder brother, Wong tried his newfound techniques. Although he still couldn’t beat his brother, he could hold his own. His brother was very impressed with this new style of movement. Wong then explained everything. All of the monks at Lo San contributed some movements to Wong’s new style. When all was said and done, Wong had techniques from 17 different existing systems. One of the most important addition was the adoption of monkey steps which gave the mantis style its much needed mobility.
Wong Long is said to have created three hand forms: collapsing step (bung bo), intercepting fist (lan jeet kuen) and eight elbows (baat jang). He taught his system to monks at the temple and so the art began to spread. One of the monks captured an unusually large mantis and the forearm of the mantis had seven points. The monk said the 7 points were like the points of stars and this style will spread across the seven stars (big dipper). Thus, the style was named Seven Star Mantis.
(Sing Sil was a Taoist priest. It was common at that time for traveling Taoists to study at Buddhist monasteries. Although it is unclear if Sing Sil studied with Wong Long personally or the monks at the temple, our lineage really begins with him.)
Sing Sil was visiting the Lo San temple and saw monks practicing martial arts forms. He was quite intrigued and sought further information from them. The monks told him that this style is the “treasure that guards the mountain” (Lo San). Sing Sil was skilled in martial arts of Mo Dong (Wu Tang) temple and wanted to have a friendly match with the monks. The monks refused but Sing Sil kept questioning the effectiveness of their movements. One of the junior monks decided to take him up on his offer.
After only a couple of moves, Sing Sil was thrown to the ground. He begged to learn but the monks told him only Wong Long can give permission for him to be taught. Sing Sil sought founder Wong’s permission and it was given. Sing Sil started to train in the mantis style. He also did research on herbs and other forms of Chinese medicine. Sing Sil dedicated years of training in this art. It is said that he was in fact the first outsider to learn the system. Finally passing it on to Lee Sam Gin.
Lee Sam Gin was a security guard in a escort service. He became friendly with Sing Sil and always begged to learn the mantis style. Sing Sil had no one to pass his art on to so he agreed. Lee Sam Gin mastered everything his master taught him. In no time Lee had earned the nickname “Lighting Fist” and due to his efforts was able to take over the business of the escort security service in Shantung.
Lee’s security service became highly sought after. As long as he was in charge, Lee the Lightning Fist never let anyone down. Bandits simply ignored Lee’s caravans as they knew it was a waste of time trying to rob them. Lee received quite a few challenges and was able to always come out on top. When he was about sixty years old, Lee decided to pass on the art. Although Lee San Gin eventually taught a few more students, Wong Wing Sang remained the most famous.
Lee was in Futsan province when he heard of a local champion named Wong Wing Sang. Lee went to see Wong and arrived at a sparring session between Wong and a friend. Lee remarked that he couldn’t see how Wong was considered a champion. Of course this led to a challenge between Wong and Lee. At first Lee only used defensive techniques and Wong couldn’t touch him. Suddenly Lee let out with a punch that stopped just in front on Wong’s face.
An onlooker recognized the technique and cried out “Lightning Fist Lee”. At that point, Wong dropped to his knees as he had heard of this famous fighter. Wong then apologized to Lee and begged for forgiveness. As he was so humble, Lee decided to take on Wong as his disciple. Wong spent seven years under Lee and obtained a high level of skill in the mantis style.
Wong had many friends in the martial art community and exchanged techniques with some of them. Thus began the first infusion of outside techniques since the system was founded. Thus, it is assumed that Wong Wing Sang created most of the curriculum of seven star mantis as practiced today. Wong Wing Sang finally passed the art to three students. His most famous being Fan Yuk Dong.
Weighing over three hundred pounds, Fan Yuk Dong was nicknamed “Giant Fan”. Fan studied under Wong Wing Sang for a number of years but became famous when he killed two bulls with his bare hands. After that, his skill with the iron palm was renown. A challenge was issued for Fan to fight a Russian boxer and fan accepted the challenge.
After defeating the Russian, Fan picked up a broadsword and waved it about his head. The people started chanting “The Giant With the Broadsword”. This name followed Fan all the way back to China. Once he returned home, the local people crowned him “Mantis King”. He hand wrote some of the earliest documents on the mantis style. These books dealt with Chinese medicine, chi gung and martial arts. Although “Giant Fan” taught many disciples, he passed his books on to his most famous one, Law Gwong Yuk.
Law’s skill level in Seven Star Mantis was developed to a high degree. He was the star pupil of Fan Yuk Dong, even surpassing the level of his older brothers. He studied with Fan Yuk Dong until the age of 25, developing devastating iron palm skill and becoming famous for his fighting ability.
Law Gwong Yuk taught for ten years within the Shanghai Jing Mo Association. Law’s success grew when his student Ma Shing Kam won the grand championship at the National Chinese Boxing competition in 1929. Law moved to Hong Kong in 1930 and helped to establish the Jing Mo association there. Because of his ability he was called one of the three “Three major boxers of Jing Mo” and he later became known as one of the “Four Super Lords” of the Jing Mo Association. His favorite demonstration sets were Tong Long Tau Tao (mantis steals the peach) and Fu Mei Sam Jeet Gwon (tiger tail three sectional staff).
After Hong Kong, Seven Star Praying Mantis Kung fu was then propagated to other parts of China besides Shantung Province.
Law Gwong Yuk was appointed Chief Instructor of the Executive Committee of the Man Keung Athletic Association set up by his students in Hong Kong. After which he returned to Shantung Province. According to Chiu Chi Man, Law Gwong Yuk had 5 sons and 1 daughter. Only one of his sons ever learned the mantis system. However he never took interest in teaching and did not follow in his father’s footsteps.
Law Gwong Yuk changed his Praying Mantis because he was influenced by the other teachers at the Jing Mo Association. It is said that he created the 14 road Tam Toy in 48 hours. Even today the Jing Mo form “gung lek” is taught as a basic mantis set. In other fist forms you will find Chan Ji Jing’s eagle claw techniques and Fak Yuen Gap’s lost track system. Additionally, other forms were adopted and “mantisized”. The exact number of additions remain in debate, however, it is clear that seven star mantis as practiced in Hong Kong differs from seven star mantis in Yantai, Shantung province. Law Gwong Yuk died in 1944 at the age of 56. Law’s most famous students, are Chiu Chi Man and Wong Hon Fun although he taught many others.
It was through an introduction from Tai Chi Master Ng Po Cheng, that Chiu Chi Man started to study under Law Gwong Yuk. In 1933 Chiu Chi Man was appointed by Law Gwong Yuk to the position of assistant instructor and took full responsibility for the classes in Master Law’s absence. In the same year, he was also nominated as the Department Head Manager of the Chinese Martial Arts division of the Jing Mo Association. Chiu Chi Man occupied this position for six years and during this time he traveled with Law Gwong Yuk to Gwangjau, China and other neighboring countries to give kung fu demonstrations.
Later, due to an economic crisis in the colony, the Jing Mo Association was forced to close down. In 1938, Chiu Chi Man and his gung fu brothers set up the Man Keung Athletic Association in Hong Kong. Chiu Chi Man was elected as the first chairman while Law Gwong Yuk was appointed as chief instructor of the
executive committee of the Association. Sometime later, the Pacific war broke out and the Man Keung Athletic Association was forced to close down. Law Gwong Yuk returned to his native place in Shantung province, while Chiu Chi Man remained in Hong Kong. Before he left, Law Gwong Yuk passed on 4 of the books given to him by Fan Yuk Dong consisting of: hand forms, weapon forms, Lo Han Gung and herbal medicine.
In April 1956 Chiu Chi Man and representatives of other Kung fu styles, formed a visiting demonstration troupe and went to Taiwan where they performed for Chinese troops. They also visited Ping Tung, Kaosung, Tainan, Mt. Phoenix and the Fisherman Islands. Chiu Chi Man never forgot his Master’s lifelong endeavor to promote the Seven Star Praying Mantis Style. Chiu Chi Man has acted as the Chief Instructor of the Law Clansmen Martial Arts Club, Chairman of the Chiu Chi Man Physical Training Club, member of the Development Committee of the Hong Kong Martial Arts Association, permanent superintendent of both the Hong Kong and Kowloon Northern Seven Star Alumni Association and the Lee Kam Wing Martial Arts Gymnasium. Chiu Chi Man has been an outstanding promoter of the Seven Star Praying Mantis Style. His most famous students are Lee Kam Wing and Chiu Cheung Leun. Chiu Chi Man passed away September 2002. He will be sorely missed.
On 10 May 1931, Sifu Chiu Leun was born in Toi Saan County, Fau Sek Village in Lane Number Five, in the neighborhood of Luhng Pihng. Toi Saan is the same part of Gwangdung Province– not far from Hong Kong– where, until the 60’s and 70’s, the vast majority of Chinese people who ended up in the United Statesoriginated from. His father had already been to theU.S.to join other brothers in the family and he returned to Toi Saan to find a wife. Because his father was already an American citizen, even though he was born in China, Chiu Luen was considered to be an American also, so, later, when he wanted to emigrate to the States, he was issued a U.S. passport and was able to travel easily back and forth to China his whole life.
When he was about six years old – this was 1937, he was playing in the fields as usual and he saw a baby bird hopping around, trying to learn how to fly. Its movements attracted him and he followed the bird into the woods. There he met two other children – a boy and a girl – about his own age and began to play with them. After some time, an older man – the children’s uncle and a Buddhist monk, joined them and they continued playing as before. After a while, the young Chiu Leun wanted to go home but was unable to find his way so the monk helped get him home.
The monk and the boy and girl were from northern China. The rest of the children’s family had all been killed and the three of them had escaped to the south. Their father had been the monk’s brother. They were living in the woods, collecting and selling medicinal herbs to support themselves. They also learned Chinese Gung Fu. The monk was practicing to be able to return to the north and fight the people who had killed his family.
A day or two later, the monk returned to Chiu Leun’s home and talked to his mother, saying that her son had a kind of affinity – a sort of uncanny connection – with him and his niece and nephew. The idea was that if she accepted the idea, Chiu Leun, her son, would leave her home and go to live with the monk and the two children. It must be born in mind that, in addition to the fact that China in the 1930’s was a fairly lawless and dangerous place, this was the time that the Japanese – already occupying much of the north – were pushing south to extend their control. Ports were closed. It was impossible for all but the richest and luckiest to leave. Getting money from America was impossible. The opportunity for a small child to go into apprenticeship – tutelage, really – with a monk was not to be dismissed lightly.
After returning one or two times, Chiu Leun’s mother agreed to have her son go and follow the monk and his two small charges. One of his jobs would be to help as an interpreter and guide the three northerners as they went. In exchange, he would learn the science of Chinese medicine – - particularly what is called ‘ Diht Da’, treating injuries to the bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles and Tohng Lohng Kyuhn (the Praying Mantis style of Chinese martial arts).
They all lived in the woods, collected herbs and traveled to different parts of Gwangdung and the surrounding areas selling herbs, liniments and other medicinal preparations. All the time Chiu Leun was learning more and more Gung Fu; learning how to fight with his hands and traditional weapons. He was with the monk and his older gung fu brother and younger gung fu sister (si-hing and si-muih) for around ten years; until about 1947. The Japanese were gone but the was civil war in China between the Nationalists and the Communist armies. The older monk resolved to return to the north to take revenge for his brothers family. He told Chiu Leun and his niece and nephew – all three of whom knew Tohng Lohng Kyuhn very, very well by this point – to go to Hong Kong to look up another of his students; their younger gung fu uncle. They did this and Chiu discovered later that both his sifu, the monk and the enemy that had killed his family had died in the fight they had fought.
After going to Hong Kong, Chiu Leun and the others had not yet found his younger gung fu uncle when he did meet his blood relation and uncle, Chiu Chi-Man. Chiu Chi-Man was also a gung fu sifu and taught Northern Eagle Claw (Ying Jaau Faan Ji Muhn) and (Wu Style) Taai Gihk Kyuhn (Tai Ji Quan) as well as Chat Sing Tohng Long, at the Hong Kong Jing Mou Association. The Jing Mou in Hong Kong had invited Law Gwong-Yuk to come from Shanghai a number of years earlier and Chiu Leun’s uncle Chiu Chi-Man had learned a great deal of the same style that Chiu Leun himself had spent over two-thirds of his young life studying and perfecting.
Sifu Chiu Leun told a story about attacking his uncle unawares once and being thrown and hurt severely because the older man did not know it was his nephew who was attacking him. Chiu Leun learned with his uncle for about five years and always spoke of him with the greatest regard and respect.
During this time he helped his uncle teach in the Jing Mou Association. The association occupied the sixth floor of a building and in a building opposite, on a lower floor, there was another martial arts school. This was owned by Bahk Mou Chiu (‘White Haired’ Chiu) the famous master of Hung Fat Paai. Chiu Leun took to watching the classes and, over time, picked up the entire Hung Fat style. Later, he invited Sifu Bahk Mou Chiu out and, to show his respect and admiration, demonstrated what he had picked up, respectfully requesting corrections in his performance. Chiu Leun’s understanding of Chinese Gung Fu was so deep and broad that even a very different type of style had few mysteries for him.
All this time, he kept in contact with his older gung fu brother and younger gung fu sister fromChina. After he had been with his uncle for some five or so years, the girl determined to enter a Buddhist convent. Chiu Leun had finally located his younger gung fu uncle; the one his sifu had told him to look for in Hong Kong. Since his younger gung fu sister, whom he had known virtually his entire life had decided to turn her back on the world, he also entered a temple with the younger gung fu uncle where he spent the next ten years practicing Tohng Lohng Kyuhn; from about 1952 to about 1962.
At that point, he re-entered society and traveled around, making a living with the Chinese herbology he knew so well and practicing Chinese Gung Fu – both attract clients and to protect himself. Much of rural China today is “untamed” in some senses.
In 1966, Sifu Chiu Leun immigrated toNew York. Within the first year or so, he worked as a security guard of sorts. Soon, he opened the first Gung Fu School in New York’s Little Italy. In those days,China town was much smaller and there were very few Chinese businesses above Canal Street. His first school was on Elizabeth between Broome and Grand Streets. After a year, he moved to166 Mott Street one block away where he taught until 1984. After that, he only taught ‘closed door’ students.
For his entire professional teaching life, Sifu Chiu Leun never once advertised for students. His reputation as an extraordinary practitioner of Chinese martial arts – in particular, Chat Sing Tohng Lohng Kyuhn has never been and, unfortunately is never likely to be equaled.
On Sunday, 15 January 2006, at 3:30 pm Sifu Chiu Cheung Leun passed to his next life in Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. He is survived by his two sons, Hing-Wah and Sing-Wah and two daughters, Siu-Bun and Man-Nei. He will be sorely missed.
Although Chiu Cheung Leun retired in 1984, he still continued closed door training with a few students. Most notably: Ho Chi Yiu, Cheung Wah, Stanley Moy, Nathan Chukueke, Raymond Nelson, Stephen H. Laurette, Franklyn Saulters and Carl A. Albright.
CARL A. ALBRIGHT
Born July 4th 1952, native New Yorker Carl A. Albright began his training in 1959. In 1967 he performed in the first public exhibition of Chinese martial arts in New York along with Alan Lee and Aaron Banks at Town Hall. In 1969 he started training with Chiu Cheung Leun. Carl Albright went into the military in 1970 and for eight years trained with Chiu Leun whenever he came back to New York. In 1978, Carl Albright was in New York to stay. He trained with Chiu Leun until he closed his doors in 1983. Albright then became a closed door disciple. Albright is one of the few students that actually received written certification authorizing him to teach Chiu Leun’s system. Chiu Leun has made numerous visiBorn July 4th 1952, native New Yorker Carl A. Albright began his training in 1959. In 1967 he performed in the first public exhibition of Chinese martial arts in New York along with Alan Lee and Aaron Banks at Town Hall. In 1969 he started training with Chiu Cheung Leun. Carl Albright went into the military in 1970 and for eight years trained with Chiu Leun whenever he came back to New York. In 1978, Carl Albright was in New York to stay. He trained with Chiu Leun until he closed his doors in 1983. Albright then became a closed door disciple. Albright is one of the few students that actually received written certification authorizing him to teach Chiu Leun’s system. Chiu Leun has made numerous visits to Albright’s school to show support. Carl Albright also trained in the Hung Gar, Pa Kua, Choy Lee Fut and the Tibetan Lama systems
Carl Albright has won over 200 tournaments in forms, weapons, breaking, self defense and fighting divisions. He fought full contact bare knuckle from 1972 through 1985. Albright was part of the U.S. Army kickboxing team in Dragon Valley Korea. He was undefeated from 1975 – 1985. Albright was one of the original members of Aaron Banks’ Oriental World of Self Defense and has performed with Master Banks for over 33 years at Town Hall, Madison Square Garden, The Meadowlands, Westbury Fair, The Roseland and many other places around the world. Carl Albright is in the World Karate Federation Hall of Fame and the World Professional Martial Arts Organization Hall of Fame. He also has appeared in many magazines such as Inside Kung Fu, Black Belt, Masters of Self Defense, Martial Arts Combat, Action Magazine as well as many newspapers. His students include Jason Buffill, Asad Sonkofa, Jerry Agostino and Pablo Morales.
Pablo Morales has trained in the Martial Arts for more than 25 years. He has studied under Sifu Carl Albright for the last 10 years earning the title of Sifu. The promotion ceremony was held under the watchfull eye of Grandmaster Chiu Leun. He has full certificaton from Carl Albright
and Chiu Leun to teach the Seven Star Mantis system. Sifu Pablo has also learned Hung Gar and trained in Goju Ryu, Shotokan and other misc. ecclectic styles. He has performed at Madison Square Garden, the Roseland Ballroom and many other venues.